Location: From Pemberton take the BC-99S for 29.6 km. Eventually you will see a sign that says Joffre Lakes hike. Turn right into the parking lot. This road into the parking lot is also called Pemberton Portage Rd.
Distance & Elevation Gain:
First Lake: 50 metres (5 minutes), Elevation Gain not significant
Second Lake: 3 km (2.5 hours), ~300 metres (the majority of the elevation gain)
Third Lake: 4 km (3 hours), ~70 metres
Child Carrier Accessible: Carrier access only. A toddler with strong endurance could complete the hike at least to the second lake and back. Please see trail description for more information.
Facilities: Outhouses in the parking lot to the left of the trail head. Backountry outhouses at second and third lake. The backcountry bathrooms were absolutely disgusting so I suggest finding a spot around the backcountry bathrooms if you have to go while hiking. Bring toilet paper and a bag to pack out your waste.
Trail description: This hike is extremely busy. During the week in the summer we encountered over a 100 hikers on the trail. The parking lot fills up but with people coming and going at different times there seemed to be always a parking spot.
All of the lakes are absolutely gorgeous. If you want to just stretch your legs you can walk the 5 minute walk to view the first lake. Unfortunately there were no picnic tables. The second lake is even more incredible than the first lake but has the greatest amount of elevation gain. We saw many hikers of all abilities on the trail but some were struggling on the uphill.
Our toddler hiked to the second lake and back down (6km round trip). At second lake she went into the carrier so that we could hike to 3rd lake and back but when we reached the second lake on our way down she wanted to finish ‘her’ hike. It was a difficult hike for her but she was extremely motivated and we all had a great time. Check out the article “Tiniest Feet on the Trail” to read about her hiking adventure.
The well maintained trail to second lake is steep but with little rocks or boulders to climb over. The hike starts in the trees but within 10 minutes you begin the big incline. After about 40 minutes of climbing the trees open up and you get a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains. As you pass by Joffre Creek there is a little bit of a drop down from the trail, more like a hill, but still important to note if your little ones are hiking.
The trail heads back in the trees for a few switchbacks but rest assured it is not that much further to second lake. The trail levels out and you reach a beautiful viewpoint of Second Lake. A minute hike away are the backcountry washrooms. To the right is another great spot to view second lake sit on some benches and have a snack or lunch.
I strongly suggest hiking the 30 minutes to third lake as it s absolutely stunning, but if you are planning to just do second lake with your little ones I would encourage you to hike the 5 minutes to the waterfall. It is beautiful and the trial is mostly flat besides a short section of stairs.
The hike to third lake is 1 km one way and only 30 minutes. It is not too steep but for tiny feet like our daughters would have been very challenging. Since she was tired we put her in the carrier for this portion to keep her from scrambling the rocks that we could hike over. We did see what I think was a 5 year old and a 7 year old hiking this portion of the trail.
After hiking up some stairs and rocks you start to get a few glimpses of third lake. The trail soon flattens and you cross a couple of bridges. Eventually you get to an opening with tons of big boulders. This is not a great place for lunch with kids. There is a small spot at the opening that is flat but the rest is just big rocks to climb down to the lake. We scrambled down the rocks to the glacier fed lake for a snack on a bigger rock. The kids had to stay close to us or they would have fallen into the icy cold water.
Take some pictures, enjoy the view and have a snack if you feel safe enough on the rocks with your kids! Then head back down the way you came to return back to the parking lot.
Please check out the post “Tiniest Feet on the Trail” to read about our adventure!!!